Solid trading in the US and UK helps Wolseley

BRITISH plumbing supplies group Wolseley posted like-for-like revenue growth of 3.5 per cent in its first quarter yesterday, boosted by strong trading in the US and Britain which offset weaker European markets.

The company, which operates the Plumb Center and Ferguson chains in Britain and the US said trading profit for the group was up nine per cent to £218m in the three months to the end of October as tight cost control helped it to improve gross margins to 27.6 per cent.

Revenue came in at £3.bn, up 3.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Wolseley reported strong annual results in October and returned £300m to shareholders after seeing signs of improving confidence in the US and its home market.

“Wolseley has continued to generate good revenue growth in the USA and the UK, although like-for-like revenue declined in the other countries as a result of continued tough market conditions,” chief executive Ian Meakins said.

The group said like-for-like revenue growth in November had been broadly in line with the first quarter. It said it would continue to manage its cost base tightly and take around £20m of restructuring costs to trading profit this year.

“So far there are no signs of improvement in market conditions across Continental Europe and we expect trading conditions to remain tough for the foreseeable future,” it said.

However, shares in the group closed down 1.7 per cent.